Every year on April 28, we mark the National Day of Mourning to recognize workers who have been killed or injured on the job, and those who have suffered serious or fatal illness due to work-related hazards.
This year, in particular, we will remember the 26 coal miners who passed away 25 years ago in the Westray mining disaster in Plymouth, Nova Scotia. The deaths of those miners eventually resulted in the federal government enacting Bill C-45, often called the Westray Bill, which amended the Criminal Code of Canada to allow organizations—including corporations, their representatives and those who direct the work of others—to be assigned liability for failing to take steps to ensure safe workplaces and protect the lives of their employees.
To date, there have been eight cases where charges have been laid under that legislation. Only two of those cases have resulted in individuals serving jail time.
This year, as the National Day of Mourning approaches, the Canadian Labour Congress asks that we lobby the federal government to take concrete steps to ensure enforcement of the Westray law.
While we mourn and commemorate those who have lost their lives on April 28, we must continue to demand every day of every year that employers who ignore health and safety standards be held accountable for the hundreds of workplace fatalities and thousands of injuries that occur every year in Canada.